Issue 2

Gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’

Somewhere and somehow, the word ‘feminist’ has become synonymous with ‘man-hating.’ It has also become known as a movement that is just for women. As a self-professed feminist, I don’t believe that excluding men is progressive and that people like me should be tasked with championing the movement and schooling other men on how they can improve equality in day to day life.

Feminism for SOCIALight is the movement for equality of the genders. For women to feel safe. For women to be able to express their ideas and concerns. For women to share their experience of oppression with the view of moving things forward.

“Gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’ – it’s good for men too.”

Julia Gillard

I work in the fast-paced world of infrastructure and construction. A highly male-dominated industry, that has been this way for many years. I currently work as an Environmental Advisor for a £244 million pound project, working with a large team of highly skilled and experienced engineers who are experts in their trades.

When people think about the industry I work in, they picture the stereotypical builder, or road workmen in hi-vis apparel, cat-calling and wolf-whistling at women on the street and generally being quite ‘laddish’ in their attitudes. But, it’s 2019 and although these stereotypes may well still exist and be true of some companies, it is not something that exists in my current workplace nor would it be tolerated.

So why is it, that there is such a shortage of women in my industry?

We have a fantastic and talented team of women who carry out a variety of roles such as skills coordinators, engineers, quantity surveyors and more. But, I can confidently say I’m yet to meet a female foreman (the job title doesn’t exactly help.) 

For me, it falls down to a phrase that is actively trying to be abolished in our industry “Because we’ve always done it that way”. A statement that is known to be at the heart of health and safety issues but also at the heart of many prejudices… but times are changing!”

We believe that as men and women are equal partners in life, they should also be equal partners when it comes to making a positive transformation. The role of men in the feminist movement is simple. They should be actively speaking out about equal pay, championing workplace equality and treating female counterparts with mutual respect.

Only a quarter of STEM workers are female

Builtbyme.com

Over the years, the number of women in STEM careers has grown however the gender imbalance still exists. Often referred to as the ‘STEM gap’ science, technology, engineering and maths are still seen by many women as ‘men’s subjects.’ Due to this, many industries such as construction, architecture, and computing saw fewer women joining the ranks. Some of the most important sectors are missing out on awesome female talent. Why is this?

Some research has found that women don’t feel comfortable choosing a career in STEM. Builtbyme.com reported that 18% of women left the industry due to the male-dominated culture and that 12% reported a lack of female mentors or role models.

Randstad’s research found that the idea of ‘men’ and ‘women’s work comes into play much earlier than first thought. Girls in education actively avoid STEM subjects due to the perception that they are not for females. At the age of 16, there is a drop-off in the number of female students in STEM subjects. And reports are that 90% of people completing an apprenticeship in STEM areas are male.

So what is my industry doing to get more women into STEM roles?

There are some fantastic initiatives to promote women in construction, women-into- construction.org, the Women in Construction Summit and Women in Construction Magazine. 

These groups are breaking down stereotypes, breaking down barriers and making women feel they can do whatever they want in an industry that has always been seen as a ‘mans’ industry. 

My industry is crying out for talent and yet for years, it’s marginalised 50% of its potential audience by not appealing to women. For me, women are a major part of the great skills shortage that we’re currently seeing in STEM roles and it’s something I hope improves going into 2020.

What ideas are there to get young women into STEM?

The industry needs to be more welcoming of women as a whole. Whether it means providing better flexibility for those with children, better support for those going on or returning from maternity leave or having workable options for those that require part-time options or flexi-hours, making the workplace a more accepting and inclusive environment would be a good start.

There are already organisations in place that have effective campaigns and government initiatives in place such as Women in STEM and WISE that are increasing the awareness of the STEM gap. Supporting their efforts and sharing their message is a step in the right direction too.

And lastly, when it comes to young girls in education, although we shouldn’t attempt to influence students’ choices of subjects or career path, it would be brought to their attention that STEM subjects are inclusive, that they are an ‘option’ for women and that they are capable of following a career path in that field if they should choose to do so.

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